Scott Shurian's name might not be familiar to you, but there's a chance
his voice is. With a career that spans over four decades, the
Holladay-area voice actor has 2,500 commercials and over 5,000
professional narrations to his credit since his early days in Ware,
Mass., where he emptied ash trays and did "anything for half an hour at
the microphone" as a small-town disc jockey.
19-year-olds, Shurian had no idea what career he wanted to pursue till
"I heard my own voice through a speaker and a microphone and I knew:
That's what I wanted to do," he recalls. In 1979, he abandoned a career
as an anchor and reporter for ABC Radio and Golden West Broadcasters in
Los Angeles to pursue voice-over acting work.
Now semiretired at
75, a youthful-looking Shurian is passing on tips of the trade gleaned
in Los Angeles and New York on jobs for clients like Lexus, Walt
Disney, American Express, Hilton Hotels and Bank of America.
Participants in his five-week course learn how to bring personality to
commercial and narrative copy, put together a demo compact disc to
showcase their talent and market it to potential agents and clients.
It's a tough
business with long odds on success, warns veteran talent agent Vicki
Panek of the local Talent Management Group. With the advent of
Integrated Services Digital Network technology, which allows the
transmission of voice over telephone wires, those odds are getting
longer all the time.
"It's almost a
worldwide business now," Shurian says. "I have the ability to make
commercials from the spare room of my home for clients all over the
for voice work may be increasing. In addition to the traditional
commercials, narrations and industrial, educational and marketing
materials, there are also Internet projects, on-camera work, film
looping (where voices are inserted into an existing film) and station
imaging, or identification. The few who can support themselves at voice
acting, says Panek, are "extremely versatile in many, many areas, have
commercial good looks and [can] play many, many roles." Most are
stay-at-home moms, waiters, or others with flexible day jobs who can
work at short notice.
Panek declines to
even estimate the number of wannabes in the Salt Lake City area. "Let's
just say my Roladex is full," she laughs.
their second night of class, Shurian's latest group of students
practiced reading commercial copy. The class size is kept to seven
students so Shurian can shower each with individual advice: "Slow down.
Count to two before you start your next word. Gesture with your hands
Ð your voice will go naturally with them. Breathe. Don't bump
the mike - the sound engineer hates that."
Shurian reads the
copy again, pounding important points hard. His goal: for Helen and Joe
and Eliza to make the leap from announcers to voice actors, adopting
what Shurian calls "voiceatility" - an elusive blend of personality,
versatility and believability.
Workshop alum Stas
(short for Stanislaus) Mintowt-Czyz of Sandy credits Shurian with
helping him get voice-over work in the competitive but exhilarating
"It was an absolute
blast to do. My first experience was a wild ride," recalls
Mintowt-Czyz, a successful 48-year-old software business owner and spin
The client, he adds,
showed up early; a dozen other things happened. But "I was well
prepared from class [because] Scott teaches the idiosyncrasies of the
industry so you're not making a complete fool of yourself in front of
But what's in store
for members of Shurian's summer class of '07? Given their different
levels of talent, commitment and interest in voice-over work, it's
impossible to say.
Student and former
disc jockey Joe Ferguson of Murray has experienced some early success
in voice-related fields and wants to expand his experience. Known for a
time to Omaha, Neb., blues audiences as KRCK's "Lonesome Joe," he
routinely did media interviews with The New York Times and The Dallas
Morning News about his growing Internet-radio business around 2001.
Despite the early local acclaim he's achieved, Ferguson's goals include
the relatively anonymous work of station imaging and auto attendant
projects, such as phone trees.
"I don't think I'll
ever be [another] Don LaFontaine," he says, referring to the famed
movie-trailer master of Geico fame. "I just want to get an agent and
see where Scott can take me."
Salt Lake City
Utah Voice Actors Take Advantage of Changing Marketplace
book on his coffee table, Scott Shurian keeps residual checks he never
bothers to cash. It was more than 15 years ago that he contributed his
performances to blockbuster films like Dances With Wolves and Ghost,
yet the payments still trickle in." Read